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South Asian countries must toughen their laws to protect children, UNICEF says

South Asian countries must toughen their laws to protect children, UNICEF says

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has called on South Asian governments to strengthen their laws to tackle child trafficking, a neglected form of the wider scourge of human trafficking.

Although there are few reliable estimates of the true scope of child trafficking in the region, UNICEF says that most South Asian nations are countries of destination, origin and transit in a new report launched today.

Trafficking children in the area are exploited both sexually – in such guises as prostitution, sex tourism and child pornography – and for labour to work on farms and as domestic servants, among others. The agency says that trafficking is not only committed by organized crime, but that friends, relatives and even parents can be complicit.

“This signifies that governments in South Asia have multiple responsibilities: to prevent trafficking; to protect children who are victims or who may be at risk; to prosecute perpetrators; and to ensure the recovery and empowerment of children who are victims of trafficking, exploitation, abuse and violence,” the report states.

While authorities have set up action plans with some countries codifying the criminalization of human trafficking, the agency said tougher laws are needed, along with legal and psychosocial support for child victims.

To date, no South Asian nation has ratified the 2000 Palermo Protocol, the first international pact to define trafficking in humans and specially addressing children.

“Measures should be taken to ensure that a trafficked child is never criminalized and that people’s migration is not jeopardized,” the report notes, adding that children must also be protected legally from secondary victimization and must not be prosecuted for offences committed as trafficking victims.

The study, entitled “South Asia in Action: Preventing and responding to child trafficking,” was released at a gathering of South Asian government and non-government organization representatives, that is currently being held in Kathmandu, Nepal, to discuss tactics to curb trafficking and exploitation.